Thursday, January 24, 2008

A place called Sunnemo

This weekend I will cross the border into Sweden to visit the parents of Terje, one of my good friends. I will leave the urban jungle to enter the forests of Värmland, one province bordering the eastern part of Norway.

We will take E6 leading south towards the second largest city in Sweden, Göteborg. South of Oslo we will change to E18, travel through the communities of Spydeberg, Askim, Mysen and cross the border towards Töcksfors. From there we will travel to the city of Karlstad, and then north to Sunnemo.

I look forward to visit this region that I have crossed through by train. Close to Sunnemo you find Mårbacka, the home of the Nobel laureate in literature, Selma Lagerlöf. We will also visit Karlstad, and I will do some shopping on our way back.

I will keep you posted after I return. Here is a map marking the location of Sunnemo.

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NORWAY - Winners and looser as airline competition hardens

There are winners and loosers, as the fight for the wealthy Norwegian air traveler goes on. Yesterday one airline filed for bankruptcy, another increased their luggage fees, but there is good news for the domestic traveler – more competition may provide more and cheaper tickets to many destinations, and Scandinavian Airlines may be the big looser.

Yesterday you could read a short statement on the website of the small airline Coast Air, that it had filed for bankruptcy. Coast Air was founded in 1975 and was until its financial collapse the 4th largest air carrier in Norway. Coast Air operated daily services to Haugesund, Bergen, Sandefjord, Oslo, Fagernes, Trondheim, Molde, Stord, Bodø, Andenes, Tromsø og Stockholm. The company have grounded all their planes, and those that have booked tickets with the airline will not get their money back.

This happens as carriers are struggling to keep their schedules and lower the cost to stay competitive. This may affect the traveler too much, and bring the wrath of the ever more price conscious traveler. Ryanair, that operate from Sandefjord Airport Torp, announced that the company is determined to force passengers to travel with 10 kilos (20 lb) of hand luggage only. Those travelling with more will have to live with much higher luggage fees. From January 23rd you will have to live with a 50% increase from EURO 6-9, if you choose to bring one extra suitcase and if you choose to check in at the airport, and not on the Internet, the air carrier will charge you an extra EURO, a 25% rise in their fees.

The official explanation is that if you travel with one piece of luggage and check in on the Internet, you will increase their punctuality, thus keeping prices down for you and your fellow travelers. I suspect that there are other (read; financial) reasons for this rise in fees. Ryanair wants you to pay more for your trip in the form of other expenses not showing in the advertisements of bargain flights. but gets clear to you as you will pay your bill. This is a trick Sterling, and many other low price carriers use to disguise the fact that the cheap tickets you thought you had booked are far more expensive, in fact up 3-4 times the original bargain price.

Whatever explanation - this is not more than arrogant behavior from an increasingly large air bully, to say the least. Most passengers may still bank on its cheap airfare, but if Ryanair expect people leaving for a longer holiday or a break to bring a small suitcase or a backpack only, the air carrier may go in for a hard landing, as many travellers may choose other low price carriers with a better attitude.

As we speak of Sterling. The deputy director general of the Danish low price airline Sterling, Michael T. Hansen, suggests to the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, that the airline may start services in the Norwegian domestic market. Norwegian air space has until now been dominated by Scandinavian Airlines with its two subsidiaries Braathens and Widerøe, and Norwegian Air Shuttle. The latter has been a relative newcomer, and has made the domestic market much more competitive with more departures and lower prices for the consumer. Michael T. Hansen says that the low cost carrier may give the two rivals even more competition pointing to the effect the airline has had on their new services within Denmark and Sweden.

Well bearing in mind what I already have told on Ryanair, be aware that Sterling do the same thing, as they have introduced fees for luggage handling, booking, seat reservations, and excludes the taxes. So I think that Sterling may struggle, as Norwegian Air Shuttle has introduced very low prices on domestic flights.

I will keep you posted on which air carrier that win the fight to conquer the hearts, minds and money of the wealthy Norwegian traveller.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A mortal sin of a meal

Gluttony is one of the seven mortal sins in the Roman Catholic Church. Some meals are more sinful than other bordering this divine vice. At Jülchen Hoppe at Andreasviertel in Berlin, we devoured a mortal sin of a meal. The mortal sin came in the shape of two fat, long, and tasty wursts –two large sausages.

I have enjoyed German sausages many times, and I always end up being filled to capacity and very satisfied. As we ended up in this charming German restaurant I immediately knew what I wanted. I wanted Bratwurst with brown gravy, German sauerkraut (fart) and potatoes, and the meal came with a vengeance.

I loved the tasty, juicy bratwurst immediately as it met my eager tongue. The sauerkraut had that unbeatable sweet-sour taste enhanced by small bites of roasted bacon, and the gravy was of the kind only a mother could make. Fabelhaft!!

This substantial meal were among the pricier we had, but not expensive by Norwegian standard, 18 EUR is not bad for a meal that kept you going until late evening. To avoid flatulence, we ordered red wine. at EUR 4 per glass. I have tried the beer and sauerkraut combination before, and believe me, that was neither pleasant for me, nor my environment.

I highly recommend people as pious as me or less to try this feast. It is worth eternal damnation.

Destinations for Daredevils

Forbes Travel has chosen the ultimate destinations for dare devils, or fools! The places you are guaranteed not to to have a comfortable, pleasant and laid back vacation. Five places not to go, if you do not want to face abduction, terrorist attacks, or violent crime. The good thing is that it is quite difficult to get there, and you may have time to change your mind en route.

Where not to go?

1. At gunpoint - Somalia

Status: Extreme security and travel risk.

Definitely the place for religious fundamentalists, pirates and warlords, not you!

2. In the future, but not now - Iraq

Status: Extreme security, terrorism and travel risk.

Shia and Sunnis fighting each other. a weak central government protected by the US army. In spite of the fact that conditions are improving, Iraq is definitely still a destination for dare devils.

3. Home of Taliban and Osama bin Laden - Afghanistan

Status: Extreme security, terrorism and travel risk

A collection of tribes in constant wars. Even the heavily protected Serena Hotel in Kabul was attacked by suicide bombers last weeks. Taliban threatens restaurants serving international guests. Not the place for a quiet evening out.

4. Hardly a tropical paradise - Haiti

Status: High security and travel risk; extreme travel risk in Port-au-Prince.

Half the beautiful island of Hispaniola. Corrupted and destroyed by the despotic leaders Francois Duvalier (Papa Doc) and his son Jean Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc). Extreme poverty means constant threats to your personal security.

5. In democratic crisis - Pakistan

Status: High security and terrorism risk, high travel risk in Karachi and Baluchistan (Extreme security and travel risk in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan)

A country in chock after the murder of Benazir Bhutto. Tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, with population that protect and support Taliban and Al Qaida. Hardly a place to travel to right now.

Other destinations for dare devils:

6. Sudan
7. Democratic Republic of Congo
8. Lebanon
9. Zimbabwe
10. Palestine

Read more on Forbes Travel

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Susanne on Washington DC and Prague

Enjoy Food & Travel co-writer is an experienced globetrotter and has recently visited
Prague and Washington DC. She has shared her impressions of the two cities on her blog.

These two cities are similar, as they are both capitals and packed with monuments and sights. But whereas Washington's history goes back two hundred years, Prague has been an important centre for over one thousand years. Different and similar.

For more of her impressions from these two capitals take a look at Susi's Souvenir.

Susanne Koch is an Internet professional who works as an e-learning and web communication adviser at the University of Oslo. She blogs about search engines and search engine optimization at Susanne loves to travel and blogs about her journeys at Susi's Souvenirs. You may also want to have a look at Susanne Koch's homepage.

Oslo - recent culinary experiences

Recently I returned to dine at Olympen, and irritatingly enough - I like it better and better, and even the chandeliers are growing on me. Saturday I had a good lunch at Oscars. These are two recent culinary experiences. I will also show you where to get a very cheap Indian dinner and where to drink in an old furnace / workshop.

Growing on you - Nye Lompa

Here they are - the large crystal chandeliers at Olympen, or Lompa. I have already told you on my mixed feelings on the newly restoration of the old beer hall. Irritatingly enough, it is growing on me - even the chandeliers.

Let us face it, it will never be the old beer hall, as it once was - a place for all to come. It has reappeared as an elegant European café, and as such it is a kind of a success. The best of it all are the restoration and preservation of the old paintings from 1928 by the Norwegian painter Hans Henrik Sartz Backer (1864-1948), depicting streets and buildings long gone from old Oslo.

My nephew Knut Ørnes and I went to dine there. I had already enjoyed an open sandwich with Skagenrøre, good, but not great. The beer plate served to my friend Terje was equally uninteresting. So my experiences were not the greatest, but I would have another go.

And I did not regret that choice.

Olympen - Lamb shanks with cauliflower puré and baked vegetables

Lamb shanks are delicious, when prepared correctly, and was I excited that Olympen had lamb shanks as the days offer.

And it was de-li-ci-ous!!!!

The shanks were lightly salted, succulent and very tender. They were served with small potatoes, broocoli, and carrots with a very tasty gravy. The cauliflower puré was the base of it all. A sweet contrast to the aromatic sauce and the salty meat.

Great stuff!!!!


Olympen Mat & Vinhus
Grønlandsleiret 15, 0190 Oslo
Phone: +47 24 10 19 99
The official website

Simple, tasty, and inexpensive - Oskar

Saturday lunch, I was joined by my good friend Laila. We wanted to try a new restaurant, and we ended up in Mandalls gate, an old street that now lead us into a completely newly constructed part of Oslo.

Here you find Teaterplassen, a new square where you have a few very interesting places to eat. You have the restaurants Vognmand Nielsen, Oskars Bar & Pizza, Evita coffee shop, and the charming bar Oslomekaniskeverksted.

A very different sandwich with Skagen Salad

Oskar Pizza & Bar has a mix of Mexican and Italian food, reflected in the ecclectic mix of decorative elements from many different parts of the world. Pizza, sandwiches, salads, taco, etc. Prices of lunch and dinner is up to €20.

We decided to go for the ciabatta with Skagen salad, believing we would get a toasted slice of Italian bread with mayonnaise mixed with shrimps, crayfish, onion, and salted roe.

Well this is a toasted slice of Italian bread with crayfish allright, but the rest of ingredients were very different from my perception of what a Skagen sandwich would look like. Fried egg, mayonnaise, salad and the most delicious tzatziki

And the price - 284 NOK (€35) for two sandwiches, and two pints of beer. Very good.

Oscars Pizza & Bar
Mandallsgate 10, 0190 Oslo
Phone: +47 22 17 69 00


A definite favourite. A bar in what used to be a furnace/ mechanical workshop. The old red brick buildings house the bar itself, as well as Det Åpne Teater, an experimental theatre where young and hopeful playwrights may get actors to perform their dramas.

The bar has an industrial interior, with rustic red brick walls. The interior design is ecclectic, with a mix of new and old chairs, tables, lamps and decorations in different styles. Here you drink, as the bar has no kitchen. You may however book a pizza from a nearby restaurant if you should want something to eat.


Joachim Nielsens gang, 0188 Oslo

Phone: +47 45 23 75 34

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Budget dining at Punjab Tandoori

This is the place for real budget dining. Here you can get a very good Indian Meal at an unbeatable price. Located at Grønland, in the middle of the ethnically mixed East End, you are in walking distance to the city centre of Oslo.

Even Andread Viestad, the Norwegian celebrity cook, after describing the first impression as "a horror version of a diner with formica-decor", he ended up by saying that it is one of the best Indian places in Oslo. I agree. You get hot food from €3-4, and it tastes great. So if you are on a budget and want interesting food to eat, this is the place.


Punjab Sweet House
Grønland 24, 0188 Oslo
Phone: +47 22 17 20 86

New super ferries to cross Skagerak

There are more good news for those of you that plan to travel to Scandinavia the coming year. Increased competition and more capacity on water and in the air will give better bargains for Norwegian and European travelers.

From Norway to Denmark in less than 4 hours

Color Line operates several services from Norway to the continent. There are daily passages from Kristiansand, Larvik, and Oslo to Hirtshals in Denmark, and from Oslo to Kiel in Germany.

From April 2008 new high speed ferries will sail from Hirtshals to Kristiansand and Larvik. The new boats will take a little under 2000 passengers and 700 cars. Crossing at a speed of 27 knots, the crossing will take 3 hours 15 minutes to Kristiansand and 3 hours 45 minutes to Larvik.

See more on Superspeed 1 & 2 here

See video on the new boats here.

See Color Magic in Oslo

Color Line commissioned Color Magic, sister ship of Color Fantasy to sail from Oslo to Kiel. This large ship is ready to start sailing to Germany from January 2008. Color Fantasy and Color Magic are among the largest passengers ferries in regular traffic in the world. They are enormous floating hotels with 15 floors and can take up to 2700 passengers and 550 cars.

In January you may even get a guided tour on the new vessel when docked in Oslo. For information and booking click here (in Norwegian only)

Ready, steady, go - for Rygge airport

5.55 PM, February 14th Norwegian Air Shuttles flight to Budapest will be the first lift off from the brand new Rygge Airport. This airport is the 3rd airport in driving distance from the Norwegian capital.

I went to Sweden two weeks ago, and as I passed the airport it was clear that it was close to completion. The airports at Rygge and Torp will offer serious competition to Oslo Airport, the main hub in the Oslo Metropolitan area. Lower fees at these airports will also mean lower ticket prices to the continent.

The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten has published photos from this brand new airport. You can see them here.

The Secret Garden

The area around Sundown Ranch Hotel was dry and arid, due to the lack of rain of the long and cool South African winter. As the hotel was formed like a circle, with rooms facing an enclosed area, I was in for a surprise. The hotel hided a beautiful secluded oasis, and from my room I had the view to die for.

From my room I could enjoy a large pool area, one large date palm, and a wide range of other tropical or subtropical trees and flowers.

In my mind the garden is one of the largest assets of this hotel, and for a tourist that had left cold Northern Europe, sitting on my terrace or overlooking the tropical splendor from the side of the large swimming pool was pure bliss.

I miss it already, as I sit in my flat during the Scandinavian winter. Then it is great to have these two films to remember it by.